Warm Data and Iced Lemonade
A deeply human response to complexity is possible.
Nora Bateson & Explorers of Liminality
Photo by Rodion Kutsaev
Author: Nora Bateson & Explorers of Liminality
Affiliation: The International Bateson Institute
Date: May 20, 2020
What is Warm Data?
Warm Data is that other kind of information: the emulsifier at the unspoken levels of why anyone does what they do. To make sense of our world we need all of our senses in relation to each other. Warm Data is the messy stuff, the multi-contexted, non-measureable relations between those senses. It is the movement within a complex living system. Warm Data is information that is alive. Warm Data itches when it is confined. Warm Data is the kind of information that let’s you know when to tell someone you love them. Warm Data gives credence to the notion that a deeply human response to complexity is possible. We all have it. Warm Data is why setting up multiple committees to solve the world’s problems of ecological and economic disaster will never work. The issues can never be separated. Warm Data is not located in one spot, or definable from one context—it changes, it is paradoxical, it matters who is observing.
Warm Data is the relational information; it’s not about the family members, but the relationship between them; it’s not about the organisms in a forest, but the relations between them; it’s not about the institutions of a society, but the relations between them.
There are different ways of generating Warm Data. One is research on complex issues. This form of research generates inquiry that does not get caught in either time-frozen or decontextualized research projects. Another form of participation is the Warm Data Lab. But, since the Warm Data Lab is an in-person process, it is currently on hold for the time it takes before travel and group gatherings are allowed again. In the meantime, a community-based project, called People Need People (PNP) has begun. It was originally designated for helping communities begin to perceive and articulate the possible projects that would form responses to the complexity of the issues they are facing, as opposed to silo-ed solutions. In a hurry, this process had to go online. I was against it. I fought hard. I was worried that the tech would flatten the richness of the in-person labs. What would happen to the shared experience of the room, to the subtle cues of a group laughing loudly, to the nuance of body language? But I eventually found a design for the process, and with a few different teams around the world, we prototyped it in a rush. That process is now known as PNP Online, and it’s running in about 40 different places around the world now, aided by around 100 certified PNP hosts.
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